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Christina Van Pelt

Age: 52

Occupation:Homemaker

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Celebrity

Ship: Galaxy

Sailing Date: n/a

Itinerary: n/a


It would have been nice to have had a few more facts about this cruise before we embarked, that's why I'm writing this to help you make your plans based on some of our experiences.

First of all, under no circumstances should you arrange to fly to Rome the day this cruise departs, or even the day before. Give yourself at least a couple of days, especially if you have a plane change. Many people on our ship did not receive their luggage for some or all of the cruise due to delayed flights and/or luggage not making their connection. Our bags did not make it with 1 1/2 hours between connections, and arrived the next day at our hotel. Luckily, we flew 2 days before our cruise departed. The shops on the cruise ship have a limited amount of clothes to purchase, just t-shirts, a few workout clothes and formal evening wear. It's also a good idea to arrive early and do your sightseeing in Rome before the cruise because we were ready to go home at the conclusion of the 10 day cruise.

Before our departure I read a very good article in the Chicago Tribune about Rome on May 22, 2005 titled "The Glories of Rome--without the Fiddling". It recommended using a taxi service, which we did, (www.romeshuttlelimousine.com), and it turned out to be less expensive. They'll pick you up at the airport and take you to the city for 35 euros and the drive to Civitavecchia was 110 euros for up to 4 people (in a Mercedes) or I think 140 euros for a van. The 3 of us were a little cramped with our luggage but it was ok. They were always there when they were supposed to be, however, the drivers speak little or no English. I booked all our pickups by email and was able to obtain the phone number of a female who works for them who speaks very good English to work out any kinks. The ride to Civitavecchia was 75 minutes and the cruise line charged $80 per person for a ride from downtown Rome so we paid much less. And he was standing there with a card with our name on it when we disembarked the ship.

Another thing you might want to do before you go is to either upgrade your cell phone to a world phone and have it activated. My son and I both did and for $1.29 a minute it was worth it to keep in touch with home when necessary. It was good to have 2 that worked because sometimes one worked and one didn't. One trick is to turn it off and then on again, that helped. Neither one worked when we were far from the ports, however. The Galaxy ship we were on indicated on their website that they did not have internet access, but they did. However, at 75 cents a minute and a slow computer it adds up.

Oh, one more thing about touring Rome. This article I mentioned recommended a tour company which we used to tour the Vatican Museum and the Coliseum. I highly recommend them. Our groups were small and we had 2 highly informed American students. The other groups we saw were much larger. It was Odyssey Tours (www.odyssey-tours.com)

We booked a suite on the Sky Deck of the Galaxy. We were very happy with the location on the ship, a very short walk to the pool area. They are on deck 12 and are the only suites with balconies with no floors above them so you get lots of sunshine on your spacious deck. (Check a floor plan before booking these rooms because some have a full deck and some don't. We did, but right next to us, for the same sized room, their deck was about half the size because it followed the line of the bay window in the restaurant below it.) We had a king size bed with a double sleeper sofa. It's a little cramped with 3 people but we couldn't put our teenage son in a room alone. You get a butler with the suites, we had Edwin, a true gentleman in a tuxedo, who spoiled us with a huge try of tea and goodies late afternoon and hors d'oeuvres around 6:30pm with a bowl of fresh fruit every day and fresh chocolate chip cookies every night. We had the late seating, which we ended up not liking. The early seating is 6:15, a little too early, and the late was 8:45, a little too late for us. We don't like to eat that late. There are other opportunities for eating other than the dining room, which we did 3 of the 10 nights. We also had some new friends move to our table because we were at a table for 6 and our assigned dinner companions never showed up and one night we ate at the earlier seating with other new friends who had a couple extra seats at their table. The service on the entire cruise was wonderful, they try to accommodate you in every way. We thought the food was excellent--there was a wide variety available at the buffets for breakfast and lunch, everything from omelets made to order, homemade waffles and pancakes with toppings, pizza and pasta made to order, every kind of fruit, salad, even sushi. And lots of desserts. The only complaint we had was that often times the juice/ice/water/coffee machines ran out and weren't replenished often enough and you had to go to a different one.

Regarding shore excursions, these I booked online before leaving home. I recommend doing this for the more popular ones. We were able to change a couple of them even up to the last minute onboard, however, some were sold out. For Naples, we took the Taste of Sorrento and Excavation of Pompeii. This was long but we enjoyed it. If you like ruins, definitely do one with Pompeii. Ours included an olive and lemon tree farm in Sorrento, which was quite nice. We sat in a charming courtyard and watched them make fresh mozzarella cheese and received a great feast with a bottle of wine. We bought some of their olive oil. It was a long bus ride to Sorrento but very scenic once you leave Naples. Nab the front seats of the bus if you get motion sickness, the roads are winding and a couple of us felt a little queasy. The Capri trips seemed to ones people on the ship liked as well. We took the Ancient Delos tour in Mykonos, which we enjoyed as well. Everyone took a boat to the island and split up into groups of about 20 with tour guides. The island is uninhabited but has a small cafe where you can get everything from fresh squeezed orange juice to ice cold beer, and a rest room stop. Our guide let us take a break but some groups complained theirs didn't, so insist because it's very hot there in the blazing sun and they only give you warm bottles of water on the boat over and back. If you like ruins, you'll love Delos. In Santorini, we had scheduled the Akrotiri Excavation and Santorini Island with Wine Tasting excursion but it was cancelled because the Santorini and Mykonos ports were switched due to some docking problem and the excavation site was closed on the day we were to arrive. So we took the Village of Oia and Wine Tasting excursion. The village was very charming, I would recommend it. The local winery was nice as well, but hey, I like wine. In Sicily, I had originally booked the Mt. Etna Lava & Wine excursion, however I changed it because my husband and son weren't up for it. I spoke with some people later who enjoyed it. We instead did the Taormina city tour. I tried to get the Taormina On Your Own Tour but it was sold out. That's the one to take, because this is such a charming city and we did not have nearly enough time to explore, only a half hour. So do the Taormina On Your Own unless you're very energetic and want to climb Mt. Etna. Taormina is one of the most charming places we've ever visited and is definitely worth it! In Nice (Villefranche), we took the Nice & St.-Paul-de-Vence tour, which was 4 hours total. If you're into Monte Carlo and the Grand Casino, go that route, but if you want to see the most charming medieval village you'll ever see, go to St.-Paul-de-Vence. We loved this village. We stopped for a drink and sandwich at a cafe where men were playing bocce ball outside. One couple we met on the cruise booked a limo on their own in advance and went to the museums and Monte Carlo and Grand Casino and saw some of the houses of the rich and famous (which we saw from a distance from our Nice tour) of Sean Connery and Elton John. Their driver recommended taking them to St.-Paul-de-Vence but they didn't go, and were sorry after talking to us. Our last excursion in Genoa was the Genoa City Tour which I would NOT recommend under any circumstances. Everyone agreeed it was boring, it was supposed to last 3 hours and lasted 4 1/2! Genoa is an unkempt, unfriendly city with virtually nothing interesting to see except for Christopher Columbus' house. I tried to change to the Shopping at Serravalle Outlet, which some said was nice but it was sold out. Others said Portofino was nice.

Overall, our cruise experience was very nice. The service was great and Celebrity tries very hard to please everyone. The shore excursions seemed a little more challenging than indicated so if you're not in good shape keep that in mind. If you take a teenager be prepared to have your own schedule disrupted with their activities, some of their planned activities start at midnight! He complained that he was the first to leave when we insisted he be back to the room at 1 a.m. Then we had trouble getting him up for shore excursions. So don't be afraid to put limits on them in terms of when they need to check in with you and where they are because some teens have their own rooms and apparently not much supervision. We like to do family vacations but it would have been much more relaxing with just my husband and me.

Overall, I would highly recommend this cruise line. We were told by a member of the staff that the ship is going in at the end of this year for a major refurbishing. The rooms are showing a little wear, the common areas not so much. I hope reading about our experiences has helped you plan your holiday. Ciao!

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